Ask Asahi Pompey what she does for a living, and the answer isn’t so straightforward.
On LinkedIn, she lists the titles of global head of corporate engagement at Goldman Sachs and president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation.
To borrow a phrase from Bozoma Saint John, Pompey is a #badass, juggling the worlds of corporate America, motherhood, and philanthropy. She radiates wisdom, light, and positivity and is a fierce force of nature in stilettos, someone who understands the power of holding the door open for those following in her steps.
When asked about the “light-bulb moment” that led her to her life’s work, she explains an uncomfortable truth. “You have to have a baseline of a certain amount of economic empowerment to have that moment,” Pompey says. It’s the foundational level of Maslow’s Pyramid and, for many, a quick privilege check. “My first aim of getting out of school was not how I could find a purpose-driven career. It was, I’ve got to pay off these loans and support my family, with two younger brothers coming up after me,” Pompey says.
Guyanese-born, Pompey settled with her family in Brooklyn’s housing projects before supporting herself through high school in Japan and Columbia Law School. An advocate for dreaming audaciously, Pompey notes, “I’m not driven by being the exception. I want to create a space and imagine a world where all these phenomenal young Black girls get a chance to live their fullest potential.” So as the world was undergoing pandemic lockdowns and demands for racial equity echoed, Pompey and Goldman Sachs were building the largest investment to focus exclusively on Black women. An initiative that goes beyond the buzzwords of diversity and inclusion, One Million Black Women has an audacious goal of impacting the lives of at least one million Black women by 2030.
To effectively address the racial wealth gap, Pompey and Goldman Sachs put their money where their mouth is—$10 billion to be exact. “If we close the earning gap for Black women, it could produce an annual U.S. GDP of $450 billion. And that’s not just impacting Black people; it’s impacting everyone,” Pompey says. And hence the investment component. The $10 billion is an indicator of the multidimensional barriers Black women face in proper health care, education, housing, job creation, financial literacy, and access to capital required to take a seat at the table. “To manifest change authentically,” Pompey says, “we’re following all those key moments of her journey. We’re investing in the arc of a Black woman’s life.”
Here, Pompey talks about the power of visibility in corporate America, setting boundaries, and her advice to her younger self.
Her first actual job
So I’ll tell you about the job I was turned down for: I tried to get a job with McDonald’s. But for my first job at 14, I was cold-calling people for Prudential insurance company.
Her advice to her younger self
Trust yourself and take more risks.
The best quality in a boss
Someone open to disagreement and open to hearing points of view that are different from theirs.
How she navigates boundaries
I have the things that are sacred and important to me, and for those things, I’m pretty firm in saying I’m not going to miss this [event]. Being centered around the sacred things helps you navigate, set boundaries, and say, “These are the things I’m not going to bend for.”
One lesson she learned the hard way
There was a time that I didn’t set boundaries, and I missed the funeral of someone who really mattered to me cause I was on a deal. Twenty years later, I don’t remember the deal, but I remember that I missed the funeral.
The best piece of money advice she’s gotten
My mom always said, “Have mad money,” and I’ve always had mad money stashed away somewhere.
People would be happier at work if…
If they speak their mind. That’s another lesson I had to learn the hard way, not telling my authentic story earlier in my career. Our superpower is walking in our power and telling our authentic story and using that road, which is, in fact, different from other people’s roads, to open pathways for others.
How her background has prepared her for the corporate world
It’s definitely kept me humble, and it’s kept me hungry to have an impact; hungry to do more to engage with others, and to keep learning. It also keeps me intellectually curious and it keeps me nimble. I’m able to pivot, which is one of my strengths. Having that perspective from four different continents—and different languages and engaging with diverse people—has allowed me to understand and be open to those perspectives. That’s made my life so much richer.
There are so many things we do around the house that are from Japan. And my sons have no idea sometimes that that’s from my experience of being in Japan, or things from Germany or Guyana. And so it’s a fantastic cocktail of nations and countries, and perspectives, that I think is pretty awesome.
Challenges she’s faced as a Black woman in corporate America
You’re both visible and invisible at the same time. You’re hypervisible because you’re different. But who you are and your personhood, and your experience, are kind of hidden, and that’s probably the most salient thing. And ultimately, it gives you a choice you have to make. At that moment, you have an option that we all make of what we bring to the table—about being seen and valued. We can either receive and be invisible, or we can seize that moment and say, “I am visible. I’m here. I belong in this room, and this is how I’m going to lead.” And sometimes you lead with vulnerability by sharing your experience. Sometimes you lead with data, but at that moment, step into it and lead because you have that choice. I can’t say that I’ve made the right choice every time, but I’ve pushed myself to step into those moments and lead.
Her five work essentials
Funlayo’s Shea Radiance—I’ve been using that a lot because winter skin can get so dry.
Byredo Bal d’Afrique—I like the scent a lot, and the bottle is beautiful. Sometimes it’s about the function, but also, it’s about the style.
Adolfo Domínguez—I discovered them during a trip to Europe, and this is going to sound way too “1 percent,” but when I travel, I tack on a day to shop!
Ruhama Wolle is an associate editor at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @ru_wolle.